Science & Technology

TikTok: US House panel approves bill that could ban or force sale of app

A US congressional panel has approved a bill that would force TikTok’s China-based parent company to sell the app within six months or face a ban.

The measure, introduced by another House of Representatives committee and backed by the White House, cites national security concerns.

TikTok says the proposed legislation would hurt free speech and small businesses that rely the app.

It has urged its users to call members of Congress to voice their opposition.

The social media giant confirmed to the BBC it had sent a notification urging TikTokers to “call your representative now” to urge them to vote against the measure.

One congressional aide told the BBC their office had received dozens of calls.

Some phone lines had been overwhelmed, the New York Times reported, and a few of the callers appeared to be teenagers.

The bill is expected to go to a full House floor vote next week.

It has been proposed by a cross-party group of 20 lawmakers who form the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

It was approved unanimously 50-0 on Thursday by the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Senate would need to approve it before it became law.

The committee chairwoman criticised TikTok’s mobilisation of its users, to which the platform responded: “Why are members of Congress complaining about hearing from their constituents? Respectfully, isn’t that their job?”

The bill pledges to “protect the national security of the United States from the threat posed by foreign adversary controlled applications”.

Lawmakers say TikTok’s owner ByteDance has links with the Chinese Communist Party – something denied by ByteDance and TikTok.

The bill makes specific reference to ByteDance – which would be forced under the terms of the bill to sell TikTok, or face removal from mobile app stores in the US.

Lawmakers say TikTok’s owner ByteDance has links with the Chinese Communist Party – something denied by ByteDance and TikTok.

The bill makes specific reference to ByteDance – which would be forced under the terms of the bill to sell TikTok, or face removal from mobile app stores in the US.

It does not contain any provision for individual users of the app to face legal action.

“America’s foremost adversary has no business controlling a dominant media platform in the United States,” said committee chairman Mike Gallagher, a Republican of Wisconsin.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat, said TikTok posed “critical threats to our national security” because its parent company was “required to collaborate” with China’s political leadership.

The bill’s proponents deny the move amounts to an overt ban on TikTok, arguing that ByteDance is being given a window of about six months to comply.

But in a statement posted to X, TikTok described the move as “an outright ban… no matter how much the authors try to disguise it”.

“This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed, saying the move represented an effort to score “cheap political points during an election year”.

The ACLU further highlighted that many Americans relied on the app for information and communication.

The proposed legislation represents the latest attempt by American lawmakers to curb TikTok.

The app is banned on US government devices – although the re-election campaign of President Joe Biden has an account.

An attempt by former US President Donald Trump to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat hit legal obstacles and never came into force.

 

source:bbc.com

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